9 Ways to Add Storage to a Small Home

When you’re short on floor space, sometimes the only place to go is up

By Janet Dunn / Courtesy of Houzz.com

A small footprint can mean big storage issues. With limited floor space, it pays to look up to your “air space.” By thinking vertically, you’ll find a whole world of opportunities for stowing items, saving the floor for essential furniture and traffic movement. Check out these nine ideas that find room up high in tight spaces.

1. Reach the Upper Echelons

In an ideal world, there would be no out-of-reach cabinetry. But there’s an awful lot of wasted space up there, so don’t dismiss it. Many of our items go untouched during the course of a week, a day or even months, so keep these seldom-used items up top. When needed, a stepladder or basketball player will come in handy. Store the rest at human height. 

Tip: Leave top-level compartments open for easy access and visibility, and label them to avoid fruitless climbs.

2. Get Your Hooks In

The hook is the savior of the spatially challenged — didn’t someone once say, “You can’t be too thin or have too many hooks”? Embrace the hook all over the house — hallway, kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, playroom, bedroom, living areas — to add heaps of handy storage. This entrance forgoes a space-hogging cupboard or shelving unit in favor of hooks, a big basket and a couple of chairs for taking off shoes.

Tip: When using multiple levels of hooks, stagger them to keep items clear of one another.

Don’t forget about the underside of shelves for a bit of hook action. This tiny kitchen utilizes both the top and bottom of a shelf across the window to hang pots and pans and to keep items off the counters. Note the very practical lid rack. 

A small kitchen is a good reason to bring back the cup hooks popular in earlier times. They’re often attached under cabinets, but your pretty cups and mugs can be displayed anywhere.

3. Stay on the Straight and Narrow

These merest slivers of a wall are fitted with narrow built-in shelves and cavities for books and wine. In-wall storage like this provides some insulation for your precious vintages, makes an interesting entrance to the room and creates a spot to pause while browsing cookbooks or choosing a bottle to open with dinner.

Narrow shelves on either side of a doorway can also hold flat items like trays, breadboards and platters, and they make a neat frame if continued across the top. 

Tip: Store up high those items you use only occasionally and decorative treasures you love to display.


With limited space for a bar, recessed shelves just one bottle deep help in creating a nook for pouring and mixing drinks. A metal grille over it makes a decorative feature.

4. Get Behind

The back of a door is underused real estate. In a child’s bedroom, toys can be tucked away in bags or baskets, ready to be unhooked at playtime. It’s also a good place to keep a ready-packed child’s travel bag to grab and go when you’re in a hurry. It’s a nifty idea for craft supplies, and in the bathroom, a spacious bag or basket can hold towels, cleaning gear and larger bath items.

Tip: Make sure there’s enough clearance behind the door — a rubber stopper may be needed.

Most laundry rooms have doors to minimize noise transference to the rest of the house. Instead of wrestling an uncooperative ironing board into a narrow niche, hang it on a pair of brackets on the back of the door.

Tip: Hollow-core doors will handle brackets for light objects, but for heavier loads, use an expanding toggle-style plastic or metal anchor. Another trick is to glue (with a proper construction adhesive) or screw battens to the door, paint them to match and attach your brackets or hooks to them.

A budget-friendly answer to keeping children’s books off the floor is an over-the-door plastic hanger. They’re not the most attractive of items, but they do the trick when floor space is tight. The transparent compartments make it easy to see the titles. They’re also great for storing shoes, of course.

5. Hit the High Spots With Shelves

Open shelves that start just below the ceiling double as storage and as a visual trick to give the illusion of a larger room. If you want to minimize the shelves, paint them the same color as the wall or use tempered glass. For more impact, use a contrasting color or wood that matches other wood in the room.

Wall boxes are a great idea for renters. They can be attached with minimal damage and are easily removed and transported when you relocate. Choose a lightweight wood and don’t overload them.

Tip: Check out ways to hang wall boxes that don’t damage walls too much. Ask your landlord if it’s OK, and offer to repair the walls when you leave.

6. Try a Line

Bulky armoires crowd small bedrooms. Little people’s clothes are … little, and also light, so a rail suspended from the ceiling should hold a chunk of their items. It’s also colorful and cute.


If you’ve managed to carve out space for a small guest room, chances are the bed and nightstands have first claim on floor space, leaving not much room for storage. Short-term guests don’t need much, so a rack of wall hooks can take the place of a wardrobe and reduce that squeezy feeling.


Clever closet devices like this pull-down bar ensure that high space is used to the max.

7. Give Your Books Air

Bookworms face the inevitability of their book collection reaching critical mass. Short of culling — something bookworms hate to do — you can gain space by floating your shelves. This clever curve leaves room for a small desk and handy storage tubs and holds the same number of books as a hefty floor-standing case.

8. Me and My Caddy

A small, cheap and often overlooked means of freeing up floor space is the caddy. Not only does it score you more room for bigger items, but you can keep counters clear of fruit bowls, herb pots, cloths and utensils. Countertop ends are a perfect spot for these catchall containers.

Tip: Use caddies for potatoes and onions, which don’t need refrigeration and benefit from the circulating air.

Hang several caddies in pint-sized bathrooms — on towel and shower rails, bathtubs and wall hooks. They’re easy to move to where you want to use the products, and you might get by with just a tiny medicine cabinet or none at all.

Tip: Renting or sharing a house with just one bathroom? Keep your personal toiletries in a caddy in your bedroom and carry it to the bathroom when it’s your turn.

9. Grow a High Garden

Vertical gardens are a growing trend. Even a postage-stamp-size outdoor space offers a chance to try your green thumb. Use fences, hangers or wooden frames to get your garden off the ground and double your growing area. Herbs, vegetables and flowers will enjoy the ratified atmosphere above the crawling bugs and are at a perfect height for picking.